Abrons Arts Center

Edification value  3/5
Entertainment value 2/5
Should you go?  2/5
Time spent 28 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned Abrons Arts Center, Manhattan

Abrons Arts Center, ManhattanThe best thing was a juxtaposition of Jordan Nassar’s white-and-blue embroidered designs and Joseph Shetler’s complex abstractions of blue pencil. I liked each, and they proved great complements to one another.

Lillian Wald founded the Henry Street Settlement in 1893 to assist, educate, and care for the poor of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. During its 125 years, it’s been responsible for many civic-minded “firsts” in New York City.  These include the first nurse in a New York public school; several early playgrounds; summer camps; the visiting nurse service; low-income mental health services; and programs surrounding the arts.

Henry Street Settlement’s Arts for Living Center, founded in 1975, evolved into today’s Abrons Arts Center. Although the Abrons Center is primarily known for theater and performing arts, its rather unpleasant, semi-brutalist brick building also houses space for temporary art exhibitions.

Abrons Arts Center, Manhattan

Although I don’t care much for the building, with its rather barren circular plaza (overrun by kids doing tricks on their scooters (is that really a thing?) the day I visited), the space for art is decent, following the circular windows around the second level of the building’s circumference.


The show when I visited was called “The New Minimalists,” featuring nine young artists working in a variety of media all focused on a rather spare, stripped down, abstract aesthetic.Abrons Arts Center, Manhattan

I liked this show quite a bit. The curation balanced seriousness with a sense of fun, even whimsy. Some photographs by Abdolreza Aminlari that I at first took for white-on-white purely abstract works turn out to be “snowy Icelandic landscape[s] on a foggy day.” I also appreciated Shapour Pouyan’s “Tzar Trauma,” a set of ceramic, brass, and acrylic sculptures that represent the relative sizes of various atomic bombs.  Hiroshima is the tiniest, under glass so an accidental sneeze doesn’t blow it away.

At least, I appreciated it once I read the explanation of it. A recurring challenge of minimalism is that it often isn’t self-explanatory.

Abrons Arts Center, Manhattan
Gallery Interior

The sequence of spaces at the Abrons Art Center gallery works really well.  An initial, small and windowless area doesn’t bode well, but you proceed upstairs into two roughly triangular areas.  Light floods these upstairs galleries thanks to big windows looking out on the aforementioned semi-circular, scooter-beset plaza.

Abrons Arts Center, Manhattan

Should You Visit Abrons Arts Center?

Abrons Arts Center, ManhattanThe biggest challenge to Abrons Arts Center lies in its relative isolation. It’s pretty far from other art and culture outposts. However, it seems good at what it does.  While I wasn’t wild about the harsh architecture, it’s a nice change of pace to see art someplace that’s not a repurposed loft.

I wouldn’t recommend a special trip out there just to see the gallery; it’s too small and too isolated.  However, if you happen to be going to the far eastern reaches of the Lower East Side, Abrons Arts Center offers a good art stop.

For Reference:

Address 466 Grand Street (at Pitt Street), Manhattan
Website abronsartscenter.org
Cost  General Admission:  Free